Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

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Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Friday, September 08, 2006
Let's vote on whether or not Bush did whatever Chalabi said

Tomorrow's headlines are going to be dominated by stories like this one about the Senate Intelligence Committee's two new "Phase II" reports on postwar assessments and prewar intel on Iraq, and on the role of Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress. Basic spin -- Democrats: "Devastating"; White House: "Nothing new."

Well, your medieval warrior has had a chance to chat with some intel experts who are, as the papers like to put it, "close to the investigation." They call attention to the unusual procedural posture of this report (something confirmed in the report itself if you look for its section on its own procedural history).

You can get pdfs of the two reports at the Committee's website here.

After the Committee staff had completed their conclusions, a motion was made by the Ranking Minority Member of the Committee, Sen. Rockefeller, to amend the reports' findings rather substantially, especially as to Chalabi's role. It seems that when this Senate was organized, Republicans only sought and obtained a one-seat majority on this committee, despite their increase in numbers after the 2004 elections, so they're highly vulnerable to defections in their ranks. The Rockefeller motion was supported by all the Committee's Democrats, plus GOP Senators Hagel and Snowe.

The result is that the report now contains "conclusions" that were added in a partisan fashion (i.e., Dems plus two usual-suspect Republicans) and that are not believed to be accurate by the professional staff that drew up the report.

There is agreement across the board that prewar intel was flawed and that, even in light of post-invasion intel, evidence of Iraq-AlQaeda links is "at best, mixed." Mind you, non-Iraqis were being trained at the terrorist camp at Salman Pak (which featured a gen-yoo-yne widebody jetliner for hijack practice), and it strains credulity to assert that none of them were AlQaeda, but we don't have smoking gun to prove that any of them were. They say.

However, the real distortions appear to be those that concern Chalabi and the INC, the role of which is now exaggerated beyond what the Committee's profession staffers are willing to stand by.

The report contains "additional remarks" by Senators of both parties. You can read those of the Democrats if you like; I'm told they do a good job of cherry-picking facts to excuse their own votes for the war. The additional remarks of Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Committee, joined by Sens. Hatch, Lott, Chambliss, DeWine, and Warner, are remarkable in the way they characterize their own Committee's net product:
Regrettably, with the adoption of the conclusions now contained in this report, the Committee has failed to meet its obligations and responsibilies as they relate to our review of the use by the Intelligence Community of information provided by the Iraqi National Congress (INC). These failures are borne out by the sharp divide between the findings and conclusions adopted by several members of this Committee, and the findings and conclusions -- drawn from the fine work of Committee staff -- that I, along with several of my colleagues, supported as the Committee considered this report.
Writing separately, Sen. Roberts says:
I believe the adopted conclusions are not supported by the facts and contain numerous errors and omissions.
The amazing thing is, when people talk about "politicized intelligence work," they're thinking of the White House, not the Senate Intelligence Committee. Yet only in the latter do we see the phenomenon of members voting on pure issues of fact. Not even juries -- the ultimate "finders of fact" in our system -- do that: they have to come to a consensus.

ETA: The RNC has put together a then-vs.-now collection of things Democrats have said about Iraqi WMD and Saddam's dangerousness. Fun.